Hardcore Vets Agnostic Front on Police Brutality and Gentrification
Agnostic Front was one of the earliest of the New York hardcore bands having formed in 1980 before that term was widely used to describe the faster and more aggressive music that characterized that movement. Toward the middle of the decade, Agnostic Front was an early adopter of the crossover sound that blended hardcore and thrash metal because, according to singer Roger Miret, the two scenes were more alike than they were different.
“Everybody liked fast, aggressive music and everybody dressed in black,” Miret says. “But everybody looked different. Lyric-wise there's a lot of difference. I can't really relate to the bands that talk about Satan, that's not my thing.”
Along with bands like Reagan Youth, Cro-Mags, Kraut, Murphy's Law and Urban Waste, Agnostic Front helped shape the last era of first-wave hardcore before it splintered around 1987, prior to President Reagan leaving office. Agnostic Front, however, persisted through 1992 when the band went on hiatus until 1996, when Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma put the band back together. Since then the group has been more prolific than ever, releasing seven of eleven total albums, including 2015's The American Dream Died.
It's safe to say the band hasn't mellowed out or tried go the pop-punk route. The songs still address social issues in the lyrics with a refreshing clarity — including the problem of police brutality.
“The difference today is that it's so widely seen,” says Miret about the difference between police brutality in the '80s versus how it happens today. “Every time something happens you can see it on the Internet. Whereas before everything was discreetly done and a lot of people were getting away with stuff. What sucks about it now is that you see these horrific acts and you still see them getting away with it and that's the kind of thing that disgusts me. At the same time we're not trying to say every police officer is a jackass, we're just saying clean up the people there are and stop hiding their abuses. No different [than] with the Catholic religion. You have these predators out there: Get rid of them, prosecute them and that's that.”
The theme of the new record is about how the constitutional rights of Americans are being undermined in subtle ways right in front of our eyes and delineated in no uncertain terms with a keen ear for the issues of working class people of all stripes. One cannot help but find a song title like “No War Fuck You” charmingly blunt, leaving no questions about where the band stands.
“Old New York,” however, points to an increasingly common issue in larger cities, including Denver: gentrification. Gentrification has become not just a buzzword but a very real socio-political phenomenon as it affects the culture of the cities in which it's happening, including the creative community.
“The New York we grew up in and know, that's long gone,” says Miret. “There's barely any live venues you can play in New York. Gentrification has affected major cities worldwide, not just here in America. I've seen it in Amsterdam and London. I'm just glad I got to live in those times when New York had that great culture. What made New York different from a lot of places was that element of danger which created such a beautiful photograph for artists of all kinds—music, [visual] art, writers and everything. It was a magical time.”
These days Miret lives in Arizona with his family while Stigma resides in Boston and the other three members of the band do continue to live in New York and all have jobs outside the band. Because of this, touring has had to be streamlined, with the group flying to a city where the tour launches and using equipment from endorsements or friends and traveling the country in a van — just like the old days. That the band has remained accessible to fans goes some way to explaining its long-term appeal. In addition the band members find pragmatic ways to stay connected to each other and the creative process as well.
“Because of the Internet we can send stuff to each other but most of our writing happens when we're together on the road," Miret says. "We write as much as we can then we go home with all of our thoughts and whatever we recorded and we continue.”
Agnostic Front plays two dates in Colorado this week. On Wednesday, December 16, the show happens at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs with 99 Bottles, Haj Paj and Creep Status. On Thursday, December 17, the show takes place at The Marquis Theatre with 99 Bottles and The Kaotix. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. All ages. More information at the Soda Jerk Presents website.
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